What we are reading this week (beginning Friday, December 2, 2022):
• 1 Samuel 10-16
• Zechariah 14 ~ Malachi 1-4 ~ Ezra 1-2
• Revelation 8-14
We are now in week 36, and we will come to the end of the minor prophets on Tuesday. Notice on the second strand that after we finish Malachi, we will jump back to Ezra. Ezra took place after the exile as did the last few minor prophets, so we are still in the same general time frame in history.
We are just over two weeks away from finishing up Revelation and, thereby, the New Testament.
Notes on 1 Samuel
Samuel anoints and commissions Saul to be Israel’s first king in chapter 10. What starts off in such a profound connection between prophet and king will end up to be a disastrous relationship and a failed royal tenure.
The prophetic gift upon Saul was powerful (10.6). Saul started off with a humble heart (10.22), but this would change dramatically. I don’t know if we ever learn why. But power has a way of changing people like few other things do.
In chapter eleven, we see Saul begin his tenure with tremendous leadership on display. He also has the wisdom and compassion of a good king (11.13).
We see our old friend Samuel winding down his own ministry in chapter twelve. He has placed the first king of Israel on the throne, and his ministry is now complete. He goes out in style, calling down thunder and rain “so all the people stood in awe of the Lord and of Samuel” (12.18).
Samuel’s words in verse 23 are good ones for us to apply in our own relationships with our families: “As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you. And I will teach you the way that is good and right” (12.23).
We see Saul’s leadership already began to splinter apart in chapter thirteen. He fails to follow clear instructions from Samuel regarding a sacrifice, offering it up himself instead of waiting for the prophet, and in so doing undermining his spiritual protection. See 13.13-14.
Saul’s son Jonathan would have been a worthy successor to the throne. He displays his remarkable leadership and military skills in chapter 14.
We find a bizarre episode of Jonathan eating honey when Saul had specifically prohibited it on that day, all without Jonathan’s knowledge, unwittingly incurring a death penalty upon himself. It is interesting that God took this ban very seriously by refusing to answer from the heavens when Saul asked him about the battle in verse 37 because of this. Saul realized that this resistance from heaven had to do with a spiritual issue (14.39), and Jonathan was discovered to be the offending person.
However, the rest of the army would not allow Saul to do anything to Jonathan. Apparently, God lifted the penalty after this encounter. But the army of Israel never resumed their pursuit to engage the Philistines in battle (14. 46).
Saul messes up again in chapter fifteen, this time setting up his ultimate demise. The Lord himself sent out a formal rejection of his leadership. There is a strong message here that partial obedience is not obedience. See 15.13-15.
Saul’s ability as a leader continues to unravel. He now finds himself ruled by fear and a desperate desire to protect his reputation (15.24-25).
Saul’s tearing of Samuel’s robe in verse 27 is a precursor of David cutting off a part of Saul’s robe in 1 Samuel 24.1-4.
In 16.35, we find a very sad commentary on the Israel’s first king: “Until the day Samuel died, he did not go to see Saul, though Samuel mourned for him. And the Lord regretted that he had made Saul king over Israel.” This was indeed a gloomy day in Israel.
David, rock star of the Old Testament, is introduced in chapter 16. “The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (16.7). 1 and 2 Samuel would have been better named as 1 and 2 David, as he is the preeminent character of both of these history books.
Even though David had worked seemingly all alone out in the wilderness, his reputation was already known in the palace (16.18). He enters the king’s service. His relationship with his king will be one of the most tragic associations of all time.
Notes on Zechariah
The prophet closes his book with an amazing picture of the Millennium. I always look forward to reading the final chapter and just spending some time dwelling on what that day will be like.
The judgement on the nations that we find in 14.12 seems to describe the effects of nuclear fallout.
Notes on Malachi
Malachi is truly a bookend for the entire Old Testament. It takes place after the Temple has been rebuilt. Enough time has passed since the rebuild that the people are falling back into complacency.
The prophet begins his book with dialogue, questions, and answers between the Lord and his people. In chapter one, God levels out charges of offering defiled sacrifices.
In chapter two, the accusation is about bad teaching. It’s kind of hard to understand if it’s false teaching or just incompetent teaching. See 2.7-8.
This is followed up by rebuke for the issue of unfaithfulness in marriage and for tolerating injustice.
Chapter three opens with a prophecy of the future messenger, which will be John the Baptist. Jesus is prophetically described as both a refiner’s fire and a launderer’s soap in 3.2.
And then beginning in verse eight of chapter three we find the discourse on tithing.
The final chapter is a set up for the New Testament. The return of the prophet Elijah is prophesied, and Jesus will refer to this as clearly fulfilled in the life of John the Baptist (e.g., Matthew 11:14).
Notes on Ezra
Ezra will lead the people after the exile back to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple. Nehemiah would later rebuild the walls around the city.
The Persians had displaced the Babylonians as the world power, leading to the end of the exile of Israel. The Persian king Cyrus was very favorably disposed toward the Jews. He even felt like it was his destiny to rebuild the Temple and Jerusalem (1.2).
Ezra is a priest, and family records were extremely important to the Jews. So we find the first of several lists of names in chapter two. Notice how few people will actually return to Israel and Jerusalem. The great majority stayed behind in Babylon.
Priests had to have their family records verified. Without this confirmation, they were discharged from the ministry (2.62).
Notes on Revelation
The imagery of this book is so profound that it is difficult to get true understanding of all that is happening. However, there are many things that we can learn and know for sure.
In chapter seven we will see that there will still be many Jews who can be identified by their tribe. Curiously, the twelve tribes include both Manasseh and Joseph (since Manasseh and Ephraim were the two halves of Joseph). Levi is included (often left off the list and Ephraim would be inserted) and Dan is not (the only time this tribe is excluded in any list). There is no other time in the Bible when this particular arrangement was listed as the twelve tribes.
In this chapter we also see the glorious encounter between persecuted believers and their Savior, Jesus. What a most astonishing, dramatic, and emotional day that will be. There are also two wonderful psalms of praise found here in verses ten and twelve.
The seventh seal is opened in chapter eight which initiates the sounding of the first four of seven trumpets. Each of them comes with judgments upon the earth horrible beyond imagination.
The effects of trumpets number five and six are given in chapter nine. The world is experiencing chaos beyond anything previously imagined. And yet we find that these words: “…nor did they repent of their murders, their magic arts, their sexual immorality or their thefts” (9.21). Apparently, there is just no way to get some people to ever connect the dots.
Don’t you want to know what the thunder spoke in 10.4? I know that I do! This gives us a somewhat obtuse way to see that the events here are real and not just metaphorical.
Now the seventh trumpet is prepared to blow, and all of chapter ten sets the stage for it.
In chapter eleven, we read about the Temple. We can be sure that will be rebuilt. The two witnesses are hated so badly that a Christmas-like holiday is created upon their deaths (11.10).
With all the horrors that have already passed, it’s hard to understand what life would be like at this point. But there is more to come. Much more.
After the seventh trumpet is sounded, the attention is now redirected to heaven itself. The praises are magnificent. The Temple is opened, and the Ark of the Covenant is unveiled. This Temple and Ark are the real deal, of which the ones on earth are merely copies (see Hebrews 8.3-5). This is a scene of unimaginable glory and magnificence. And we followers of Jesus will be there to see it all and take it in.
Chapter twelve seems to be an allegory, a flashback of the history of Jesus, Satan, and the people of God. However, the story is extended now to where the antichrist (the first beast) and his false prophet (the second) emerge out of this story in chapter thirteen for their end-times appearance.
The beast will have a supposed resurrection that will draw the intention of the entire world (13.3; See also 13.14b).
Chapter thirteen closes with the dire prophecies concerning 666 and the mark of the beast. Better news to come in the later chapters!